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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2021-09-24T18:45:00-04:00
Updated: 38 min 42 sec ago

Steelers officially sign pass rusher Taco Charlton to their practice squad

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:42pm
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The addition of Taco Charlton will help beef up the pass rusher depth for the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been bitten by the injury bug, and the team’s pass rushing depth is being tested. The groin injury to T.J. Watt was public knowledge, but on Tuesday Mike Tomlin told reporters Alex Highsmith was suffering from his own groin injury which could hinder his ability to practice leading up to the team’s Week 3 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Watt and Highsmith both banged up, the Steelers decided to make a move. After placing Tyson Alualu on Injured Reserve (IR), they promoted Henry Mondeaux to their active roster. This vacated a spot on the team’s 16-man practice squad. The team filled that vacancy with pass rusher Taco Charlton.

We have signed DE Taco Charlton to the practice squad.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 21, 2021

Will the addition of Charlton equate in the injury to Watt being more serious than once thought? That might be a little premature at this juncture. The team could be wanting someone with more experience available as their third pass rusher if Watt is unable to play.

In other words, someone other than Jamir Jones to spell either Alex Highsmith or Melvin Ingram, especially if Watt can’t go.

Don’t know much about Charlton?

Taco Charlton was the 28th overall selection of the 2017 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys. Most notably, Charlton was selected two spots before the Steelers drafted T.J. Watt. Only lasting two seasons with the Cowboys, Charlton appeared in 27 games with seven starts and only had 4.0 sacks with Dallas. In 2019, Charlton was waived by the Cowboys early in the season and claimed by the Miami Dolphins. Charlton started five games, appearing in 10, with Miami and had 5.0 sacks on the season. Signed by Kansas City after the 2020 NFL Draft, Charlton appeared in seven games with the Chiefs and had 2.0 sacks and no starts while only playing 90 snaps. Charlton was released by Kansas City during training Camp this offseason.

The addition of Charlton at least gives them a veteran presence on the outside, while they wait to see if Highsmith or Watt will be available Sunday. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Heinz Field.

PFF grades show the Steelers secondary struggles in Week 2

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the grades provided by PFF, the Steelers’ secondary held the bottom defensive spots with one exception.

The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to get things going consistently yet again on offense in Week 2 as the defense attempted to overcome the loss of several key players due to injury. If anything, Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season is a reminder to Steelers fans not to take anything for granted and how delicate the difference in play between wins and losses can be. The Steelers must now go back to the drawing board in order to avoid a losing streak early in the season.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for their Week 1 performance. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 66 snaps on defense in Week 2.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB T.J. Watt: 94.9 (16 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 80.2 (56 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 70.5 (4 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 69.3 (66 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 69.0 (48 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB James Pierre: 50.3 (66 snaps)
CB Tre Norwood: 45.4 (50 snaps)
CB Justin Layne: 44.4 (9 snaps)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 34.8 (4 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 29.1 (66 snaps)

Defensive Front Seven

OLB T.J. Watt: 94.9 (16 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 80.2 (56 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 70.5 (4 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 69.0 (48 snaps)
DT Isaiah Buggs: 67.9 (22 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 67.3 (44 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 59.7 (18 snaps)
OLB Melvin Ingram III: 57.2 (57 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 53.5 (15 snaps)

I doubt many are surprised that the Steelers defensive front lead the way with the PFF grades. Unfortunately, the overall grades are not as high as they were the previous week. The other unfortunate item of note is two of the top three scores were from players who left the game due to injury and did not play the second half. Although his overall grade was further down the positional list, Alex Highsmith had a great run defense grade of 85.5 which only trailed Cam Heyward’s 89.6 on the day.

It should also be noted that through all of Sunday’s games, Cam Heyward has the top PFF grade (93.3) of any defensive player in the NFL. Also, T.J. Watt’s overall grade (91.8) lands in third only 0.1 behind Maxx Crosby of the Raiders.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Robert Spillane: 59.9 (53 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 56.2 (66 snaps)

For the second straight week, the inside linebackers finished in the middle of the pack as they didn’t do anything overly outstanding. The most notable number of them all is likely the fact Joe Schobert played every defensive snap in Devin Bush’s absence.

Defensive Backs

S Terrell Edmunds: 69.3 (66 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 53.3 (66 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 50.3 (66 snaps)
CB Tre Norwood: 45.4 (50 snaps)
CB Justin Layne: 44.4 (9 snaps)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 34.8 (4 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 29.1 (66 snaps)

With the exception of Terrell Edmunds, who landed in the top five grades for the team, the rest of the Steelers secondary brought up the bottom six spots on the Steelers defense. Although the secondary struggled on Sunday, the scores given by PFF also show that they still just don’t get the way the Steelers defense has been operating the first two weeks. While Minkah Fitzpatrick did not have a strong outing, saying his score was worse than Witherspoon, who was credited with the 61-yard touchdown, as well as Justin Layne and Tre Norwood is still a bit of a stretch.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

Steelers injury list grows as they prepare for the Bengals at Heinz Field

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 11:23am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers injury report is getting longer as they prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t just lose their Week 2 game vs. the Las Vegas Raiders, they were decimated by injury almost overnight. Leading up to the game, both Joe Haden and Devin Bush were deemed inactive for the contest with groin injuries. As if this wasn’t a big enough blow to the defense, Tyson Alualu left with a broken ankle, which landed him on the Injured Reserve (IR), T.J. Watt left the game with his own groin injury and Diontae Johnson was left clutching his knee at the end of regulation.

Needless to say, the injury status of these players is almost as important as the team’s ability to develop a running game and a consistent offensive attack. During Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference Tuesday, he gave a brief description of the players who may, or may not, be available to the Steelers when they host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 at Heinz Field.

Tomlin started be outlining Tyson Alualu being placed on IR, and having surgery to repair his fractured ankle. Henry Mondeaux was called up from the practice squad to fill Alualu’s spot on the 53-man roster, but it is Isaiah Buggs who finds himself as the starting nose tackle on the team’s official depth chart, with Mondeaux being his backup.

Outside of Alualu, Tomlin did outline some new injuries of note, and those to players who have a significant role on the team.

Tomlin stated outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is dealing with a groin injury, and could limit him early in the week. It should be noted Highsmith suffered a groin injury before the Week 1 game vs. the Buffalo Bills, but was able to play.

On top of Highsmith, Tomlin said Ben Roethlisberger suffered a pectoral injury to his left pectoral muscle. According to Tomlin, this injury could impact Roethlisberger’s preparation leading up to the divisional game this Sunday.

All other injuries which were mentioned were all known injuries. Of the following players, no real update was given, other than the team “leaving the light on” for them, and their participation will ultimately be the team’s guide.

T.J. Watt (groin)
Devin Bush (groin)
Joe Haden (groin)

Finally, Tomlin did mention Diontae Johnson, who suffered a knee injury on the final play of Week 2. Tomlin said Johnson was, “looking better, but not to be confused with great.”

These injuries will have a huge impact on the outcome of the upcoming game, and the Steelers’ first practice report on Wednesday will ultimately shine a light on who will, and won’t, play in Week 3 vs. Cincinnati.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for their first AFC North divisional game of the 2021 regular season.

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out BTSC’s recap podcast below.

Podcast: Rough start or the end of the road for Ben Roethlisberger?

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s newest podcast, From the Steelers Cutting Room Floor for weekly study of team and individual play.

Ben Roethlisberger head another week in which he did not resemble his younger self. Can we just chalk that up to a rusty start or is Ben done? Welcome to From the Steelers Cutting Room Floor. Join BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict for weekly player analysis as it pertains to the Men of Steel.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • A deep dive into the performance of Ben Roethlisberger after two games in 2021.
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Taco Charlton reportedly visiting the Steelers, could be signed to practice squad

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 10:34am
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be adding some defensive help in the near future.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their defense, and to be more specific, are known for their pass rush. The Steelers have led the NFL in sacks the past three seasons, but with T.J. Watt hampered with a groin injury, the Steelers might be looking to the outside for pass rushing help.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network, the Steelers are planning on hosting pass rusher Taco Charlton for a visit/physical. If all goes as planned, Charlton could be added to the team’s practice squad.

Pass rusher Taco Charlton is currently in Pittsburgh, undergoing a physical. If all goes well, a person involved in the process tells me the #Steelers will sign him to their practice squad.

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 21, 2021

Would the addition of Charlton equate in the injury to Watt being more serious than once thought? That might be a little premature at this juncture. The team could be wanting someone with more experience available as their third pass rusher if Watt is unable to play.

In other words, someone other than Jamir Jones to spell either Alex Highsmith or Melvin Ingram, if Watt can’t go.

It also should be noted that the Steelers have an open spot on their practice squad due to the promotion of Henry Mondeaux on Monday when Tyson Alualu was placed on the Reserve/Injured List. So signing Charlton will not cause a release of another player.

Don’t know much about Charlton?

Taco Charlton was the 28th overall selection of the 2017 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys. Most notably, Charlton was selected two spots before the Steelers drafted T.J. Watt. Only lasting two seasons with the Cowboys, Charlton appeared in 27 games with seven starts and only had 4.0 sacks with Dallas. In 2019, Charlton was waived by the Cowboys early in the season and claimed by the Miami Dolphins. Charlton started five games, appearing in 10, with Miami and had 5.0 sacks on the season. Signed by Kansas City after the 2020 NFL Draft, Charlton appeared in seven games with the Chiefs and had 2.0 sacks and no starts while only playing 90 snaps. Released by Kansas City during training Camp this offseason, Charlton was hoping to catch on with another NFL franchise.

Will that franchise be the Steelers? Only time will tell, but if Watt is out for any amount of time Charlton could be a good addition for the Steelers’ defense.

The Steelers offense just wasn’t good enough to carry an injury-depleted defense in Week 2 loss

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 10:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The defense is the strength of the 2021 Steelers team. After suffering so many injuries, both before and during Sunday’s 26-17 loss to the Raiders at Heinz Field, the offense proved to be incapable of picking up the slack.

It wasn’t long ago that the Steelers offense was the dominant force of the team.

Unfortunately, that dominance seemed to leave town right around the same time both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell did a few years ago. The offense really hasn’t been dominant and a unit capable of carrying a struggling defense to victory ever since.

The Steelers defense is absolutely terrific, these days; unfortunately, it lost the war of attrition on Sunday, and that played a huge role in a 26-17 Week 2 defeat at the hands of the Raiders in the 2021 home opener at Heinz Field.

The defense looked great early, even with both cornerback Joe Haden and inside linebacker Devin Bush missing the game due to groin injuries. The unit even seemed to hold up when defensive lineman Tyson Alualu was lost in the first half with a season-ending ankle injury. But the straw that broke Keith Butler’s back appeared to be the groin injury suffered by Mr. T.J. Watt before halftime, a blow that prevented the difference-making linebacker from playing the rest of the day.

It was the proverbial skeleton crew on defense for the final two-plus quarters, one that more resembled what you’d normally see in an exhibition matchup in mid-August.

In the wake of the Steelers wave of defensive injuries, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr played like the thorn-in-the-side he’s always been against Pittsburgh; Carr completed 28 of 37 passes for 382 yards and two touchdowns—including a 61-yard dagger to Henry Ruggs III with nine minutes and change remaining in the final period. It was a dagger because it came just moments after Pittsburgh appeared to have all the momentum in the world following a fantastic 25-yard touchdown catch and run by rookie running back Najee Harris to pull the team to within two points with 11:15 left in the game.

In the recent past, the defense may have continued the momentum with a quick three and out—or even better. But it just wasn't up to the task against Las Vegas. How could it have been, what with so many of its big guns standing on the sidelines with blanks in their chambers?

Speaking of the recent past, the offense the Steelers used to have may have carried its depleted defense to victory on Sunday. Heaven knows it carried enough mediocre units to comeback wins, playoff appearances and division titles in the mid-to-late 2010s.

But this isn’t your older brother’s Steelers offense anymore. It’s one that often resembles the potency of your great grandfather.

It certainly resembles the unit that failed to scare or even fool anyone down the stretch of the 2020 campaign when the team went from 11-0 in the regular season to one and done in the postseason.

It used to be cool (and highly accurate) to say that the Steelers went as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went.

I’m not so sure that’s cool to say anymore (and it no longer seems accurate).

Derek Carr was the best quarterback at Heinz Field on Sunday, and it didn’t appear to be close.

Roethlisberger might still be a fine quarterback, one capable of making the occasional huge play or even getting hot at various points of a football game. However, he no longer appears to be the guy who can take an offense that otherwise would only be capable of scoring 14 points a game (the Roethlisberger-less 2019 unit comes to mind) and through sheer will, push it to do much more than that over the course of a season. Maybe before the year is out, the rookie Harris will prove to be the catalyst for the offense and someone who can lift it up and carry it on his back.

But if Sunday was any indication—Pittsburgh rushed for an abysmal 39 yards—Harris and the guys blocking for him aren’t even close to being in a position to accept such an important responsibility at the moment.

The success of the 2021 Steelers will almost surely rest on the broad shoulders of their defense. Those shoulders are slumped a bit at the moment due to issues with its lower extremities.

What’s that saying in boxing? Take out the body and the head will follow.

If the Steelers defense doesn’t get healthy and quick, the 2021 campaign could begin to unravel before that offense can even resemble something competent.

Premature “sky is falling” talk? No, just keeping it real. The Steelers' defense is really good and needs to stay as healthy as it can be in order for the team to have a chance.

As for the offense? It’s really, really, well, if you’ve been paying attention since 2019, you know what it is.

Ben Roethlisberger makes a huge jump in his PFF grade for Week 2

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, the Steeler’s offense had similar scores to Week 1 but the players at the top were different.

The Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to get things going consistently yet again on offense in Week 2 as the defense attempted to overcome the loss of several key players due to injury. If anything, Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season is a reminder to Steelers fans not to take anything for granted and how delicate the difference in play between wins and losses can be. The Steelers must now go back to the drawing board in order to avoid a losing streak early in the season.

So how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for their Week 2 performance. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up is the offense. Included will be all the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 56 snaps on offense in Week 2.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

WR Diontae Johnson: 72.3 (49 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 72.2 (56 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 71.4 (33 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 71.3 (56 snaps)
WR Chase Claypool: 65.0 (43 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

RB Benny Snell Jr.: 51.3 (3 snap)
G Trai Turner: 47.7 (45 snaps)
WR James Washington: 40.7 (12 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 40.6 (8 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 38.1 (24 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Ben Roethlisberger: 72.2 (56 snaps)

This is going to both baffle and frustrate some Steelers fans. With PFF grades not determined by if the team won or lost, the scores for Roethlisberger in the first two weeks don’t necessarily match the narratives associated with the games. Following Week 1, many Steelers’ fans felt Roethlisberger’s 38.0 score, which was the lowest of any QB in the NFL that week, was disrespectful as he did not have the worst performance especially in an upset victory. But with the Steelers offense not producing to a higher level than they did the previous week, many fans were down on Roethlisberger‘s ability to lead the offense. Regardless of the narrative, Roethlisberger’s score reflects a player who was much more accurate with his passes than he was the previous week.

Running Backs

RB Najee Harris: 63.5 (53 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 51.3 (3 snap)

Before getting into the Steelers running backs, I have to admit the frustration of having to remove a name from this list from the previous week. Even if it wasn’t for many plays, the Steelers did not deploy a fullback on offense for even one snap in Week 2. As for the grades of the running backs, Najee Harris graded higher in the passing game (65.0) than the running game (59.8). Ultimately, the most encouraging grade from Harris came from his pass blocking (84.8) as he did a nice job on the six snaps where he was used to help defend Ben Roethlisberger.

Receivers

WR Diontae Johnson: 72.3 (49 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 71.4 (33 snaps)
WR Chase Claypool: 65.0 (43 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 61.0 (54 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 60.0 (1 snap)
WR James Washington: 40.7 (12 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 40.6 (8 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 38.1 (24 snaps)

Once again, three of the top five overall positions came from a receiver with Pat Freiermuth and Chase Claypool appearing in both Week 1 and Week 2. Seeing Diontae Johnson topping the list was encouraging, despite still having several plays where he either stopped early or was not on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger. Seeing Eric Ebron‘s score plummet while Pat Freiermuth basically stayed the same may be something to consider as to how the Steelers will deploy their tight ends in the coming weeks.

Offensive Line

OT Chuks Okorafor: 71.3 (56 snaps)
C Kendrick Green: 63.5 (56 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 62.7 (56 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 60.8 (56 snaps)
G B.J. Finney: 58.5 (11 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 47.7 (45 snaps)

This is another category where the fans’ narratives may not match the scores given. With the majority of Steelers’ Nation down on right tackle Chuks Okorafor, he led the offensive linemen with not only the top overall score, but the Steelers best run blocking grade of 79.5 in Week 2. Although not receiving outstanding grades, three of the Steelers five starting offensive linemen— Dotson, Green, and Okorafor— did have improved grades from the previous week.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

Stock Report: Whose stock is rising, and falling, after the loss to the Raiders

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 8:00am
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Taking a look at what direction Steelers stock is trending after their home opener loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. What a difference a week can make in the NFL!

If I am being totally honest, I hate Steelers losses far more than I love Steelers victories. It's not just the disappointment and frustration after every loss. That has always been there for as long as I have loved the Steelers, an inevitable price to be paid for any vested fan.

I have always been able to process the wins or losses; after a reasonable amount of time, enough to maintain perspective. I may not be particularly ecstatic after a loss, but I at least can remain rational. Every since joining the BTSC staff, keeping a positive mindset has become a difficult proposition. Mainly due to all the overreactions.

Regardless of whether it's a win or a loss, rampant overreaction is always present. Take Week 1 for example. The Steelers stroll into Buffalo and walk out with a surprising victory over the perceived AFC contender. Suddenly the Steelers found themselves being mentioned as a top 10 team in the league by the national media, many of the same individuals that had been reading the Steelers their last rites all off season. Many of those same experts suddenly changed their minds about the Bills, wondering aloud if the Bills might not be as good as everyone thought they were. Total overreaction after the result of a single game.

Now the undermanned Steelers lose their home opener to Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders by six points, and suddenly the Steelers are deemed has been pretenders once again. The Raiders played a good game, and they earned a hard fought victory. So what have we learned through two weeks of the season? Basically that it is far too early to predict anything with any amount of certainty, and that injuries will once again play a huge role in deciding which franchises enjoy a successful season.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Chris Boswell and Pressley Harvin lll

Even in a utterly disappointing final result, there are always positive performances in need of recognition. The list isn't as extensive as preferred, but acknowledgement is required.

T.J. Watt appeared on the precipice of another legendary performance at Heinz Field prior to tweaking his groin and being forced to leave the game. He had already logged 4 tackles and a sack in less than a half of football. The impact of his absence can't be overstated.

Cameron Heyward was once again dominant and disruptive throughout the game. Already missing his longtime running mate Stephon Tuitt, Heyward watched helplessly as fellow tag team partner Tyson Alualu was lost for the season with a broken ankle early in the first quarter. Heyward tried his best to be a one man wrecking crew, but he definitely could have used the assistance of his fallen comrades. He shows no signs of slowing down.

On offense, there were outstanding individual efforts surrounded by maddening inconsistency throughout.

Ben Roethlisberger, in typical Big Ben fashion, stepped up to the mic post game and placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders. Although he deserves his share of the blame, football is a team game, and there is plenty of fault to go around. He said he has to play better, and he is correct. A lot of guys on offense have to play better, the sooner the better.

Ben made some impressive throws, and showed his trademark strength and toughness navigating the pocket. However, his never say die persona once again resulted in a costly interception.

He took one vicious late hit in the pocket that would have left a lesser man standing on the sidelines in street clothes, if not carted off the field. Definitely would have, and should have, drawn a penalty flag for any other star QB in the league.

The rookie starters all gained valuable in game experience, taking some positive strides forward, along with a few steps back on occasion. That is to be expected. I will cover their performances in debt in this week's Rookie Review article.

The wide receivers all made some big plays, but there is definitely room for improvement. Diontae Johnson had his first 100 yard game of the season, but still seems to be struggling to get on the same page as his QB at times.

Claypool made a nice extended catch on one deep ball, but was unable to come down with a couple others that were slightly off target. His chemistry with Ben remains a work in progress.

JuJu Smith Schuster showed off his toughness and powerful running abilities, especially in the first half. He seemed to be a forgotten man in the second half. That is unacceptable, as he is too important to this offense.

The biggest stock up on the day for the Steelers was definitely the tandem of Chris Boswell and Pressley Harvin lll. Boswell made the longest field goal in Heinz Field history, a 56 yarder that barely cleared the crossbar. Taking all things into consideration, that was even more impressive than his 59 yarder against the Dallas Cowboys last season.

Pressley Harvin lll showed exactly why he was brought in to improve the punting game, booming punts with exceptional accuracy and hangtime. The perfect response to Week 1.

Steelers Stock Trending Down: Good fortune

Have you ever experienced the sneaky suspicion that today might not be your day? The Steelers probably experienced that revelation on Sunday against the Raiders. All the good fortune they enjoyed against the Bills was no where to be found against the Raiders.

Let me try to explain. Similar situations throughout both contest, with strikingly different results. Wide open receiver deep down field after getting behind the Steelers coverage for what would be a game changing TD reception. Bills QB Josh Allen misses the throw, Raiders QB Derek Carr does not.

Penalties were few and far between in a relatively clean played game against the Bills, yellow handkerchiefs all around against the Raiders, most of which negatively impacted the Steelers. More on that below.

T.J. Watt strip sacks in both games. Against the Bills, Cameron Heyward is in the right place at the right time, ready to pounce on the ball. Against the Raiders, no such luck.

The biggest difference is most definitely the injury situations. The Steelers exited the Bills game relatively healthy. That wasn't the case against the Raiders. Injuries are inevitable, but being down 5 of your top 7 defenders early in the game would cause any defense to struggle. The replacements gave an admirable effort, but the talent differential was unmistakable. The resulting fatigue over being undermanned impacted the second half results. That is not meant to be an excuse, only an observation.

Steelers Stock Trending Beyond Frustrating: Officiating

Different officiating crews, totally different results. The crew during the Bills game wanted the game to be decided between the lines by the players. They seemed to only call the most erroneous violations, apparently looking the other way when holding calls could have been called on the Bills offensive linemen on seemingly every play.

The crew for the Raiders game appeared determined to make their presence known, greatly impacting the outcome. Even worse, their calls went disproportionately against the good guys in the Black and Gold. The lead official definitely got his TV face time.

Two blatant examples. Raiders QB Derek Carr scrambles out of the pocket and takes off downfield, only to be tackled in the open field by Alex Highsmith down low and Robert Spillane up high. Perfectly legal tackle by all parties involved. The referee threw a flag for a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty, although he should have been considered a runner at this point. They even called it on the wrong number. Terrible call.

Ben Roethlisberger stands tall in the pocket, scanning the field for a receiver to come open. The pocket eventually breaks down, with Raiders DE Maxx Crosby breaking free and coming full bore. At the last split second, Ben throws the ball incomplete prior to taking a shot from Crosby full force directly to the sternum, driving him to the ground. No flag to be found.

There were numerous other incorrect calls, no calls, and questionable calls for an officiating crew that had a truly bad day. Or maybe it was a good day, depending on who you were rooting for.

NFL Week 3 Betting Preview: Steelers currently 4.5-point favorites against the Bengals

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Both teams stumbled in Week 2 after opening with big wins.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals are facing off in Week 3 the 2021 NFL regular season. With both teams pulling off victories in Week 1 only to be brought down to earth in Week 2, this is the first AFC North matchup in the young 2021 season. With all four teams tied at 1-1, the winner of this game will hold the top spot in the North due to divisional record.

When it comes to the betting lines for Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by oddsshark.com.

Game Info: Week 3 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, September 26, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Betting line: -4.5

Over/under: 44.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (L) 27-17 in Cincinnati

Win streak: 1 game CIN

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 2 - 1 CIN

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 9 - 1 CIN

The opening line on the game was at -7 following Week 1. This line moved to -5 after the Steelers loss on Sunday and settled in at -4.5 on Monday.

Being the favorites on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -215 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 20/43 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Bengals would have a payout of $29.30 ($9.30 plus the original $20 bet). The Bengals have a current moneyline of +185, or 37/20 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Cincinnati to win straight up would have a payout of $57 ($37 plus the original $20 bet) .

According to Oddsshark.com, the Steelers are 3-6 against the spread in their last 9 games and are 1-4 against the spread the last 5 games played at Heinz Field. The Steelers also have gone OVER in 4 of their last 6 games and have gone UNDER in 4 of their last 6 games against Cincinnati.

If looking at the futures bets, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl are 35/1 after being at 28/1 after Week 1. The Steelers odds to win the AFC Championship are now 18/1 odds. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers are currently at 37/10 odds and are still behind both the Ravens and the Browns both at 6/5 odds. The Bengals bring up the rear with 12/1 odds.

Trai Turner reportedly going to avoid suspension for ejection vs. the Raiders

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers could get lucky and not have to deal with a suspension on top of their many injured players.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen the injury bug sweep through their team throughout the course of just one week. After their Week 1 victory over the Buffalo Bills the Steelers were a healthy team heading into the Week 2 contest vs. the Las Vegas Raiders at Heinz Field. Starting Friday of last week, that all changed.

Now, heading into the Week 3 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers aren’t sure of the availability of the following players, due to injury:

T.J. Watt (groin)
Joe Haden (groin)
Devin Bush (groin)
Diontae Johnson (knee)

On top of those injured players, there was also the chance the Steelers could be without right guard Trai Turner after he was ejected after reportedly spitting on a Raiders player during the second half of the game Sunday.

However, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Turner is likely to avoid suspension, but could still face a financial penalty for his actions.

No suspensions are expected for #Rams LB Kenny Young or #Steelers OL Trai Turner, who were both ejected from games Sunday, I'm told. Both will be reviewed for possible fines.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 20, 2021

For the Steelers, who have a such a young and inexperienced offensive line, losing the veteran of the group could be a huge hit to the unit. After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin had this to say about the overall situation.

“Somebody spit in his face.” Tomlin said. “And so I understand the 15-yard penalties and so forth, gaining control of the game and stuff, Trai is not a young guy, he’s not overly emotional; he’s a flat-liner. For him to respond the way that he responded, what transpired had to transpire. I was stating that case to them. I didn’t believe he did enough to be kicked out of the football game. That was just my opinion.”

If the report holds true, and Turner is able to play for the Steelers this Sunday at Heinz Field, it would be the best case scenario not just for Turner, but also the Steelers’ offense, as they hope to rebound and win their first divisional game of 2021.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming AFC North grudge match in Week 3.

Podcast: Why the Steelers WILL beat the Cincinnatti Bengals on Sunday

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers were considerable favorites before they fell to the Raiders on Sunday. Now the national media has changed their minds about the decline of the Men of Steel. Can the Steelers beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday? One BTSC podcaster definitely thinks that it is a given. Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Why the Steelers will beat Cincinnati
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

AFC North Recap: In Week 2 the script get flipped, entire division 1-1

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 2:30pm
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

All four teams who call the AFC North home are 1-1 heading into Week 3.

The second week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was.

Time to take a look...

Baltimore Ravens - 36
Kansas City Chiefs - 35

As many on the east coast went to bed, the Ravens and Chiefs were going head-to-head in a dynamic, and exciting prime time matchup. Right when it looked as if the Ravens were done in by Patrick Mahomes, again, it was Lamar Jackson and company who had the last laugh. The biggest call of them all? Only up one, on their own 41-yard line, John Harbaugh and Jackson had the ‘stones’ to go for it on 4th and 1. They made it, and Mahomes never touched the field again.

Chicago Bears - 20
Cincinnati Bengals - 17

In a game I feel like no one watched, Joe Burrow and company fell down early, but stormed back late. It was just too little, too late. The Bengals are a young and inexperienced team, but are a tough out as long as they stay healthy. A big test awaits with a road trip to Heinz Field in Week 3.

Cleveland Browns - 31
Houston Texans - 21

Everyone thought this was a blowout waiting to happen, but Tyrod Taylor, before leaving injured, had the Texans right in the thick of things in the first half. Eventually the Browns were too much for Houston to handle, and they pulled away with the win. Baker Mayfield left with a shoulder injury to his non-throwing arm, but was able to return and played well. The Browns are tough to beat, but are far from perfect.

Las Vegas Raiders - 26
Pittsburgh Steelers - 17

It seems as if the rest of the division has a general trajectory for the rest of their season. As for the Steelers, it is one giant question mark. Whether you are talking about the inexperienced offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger’s inconsistencies, the team’s inability to run the football or the injuries currently plaguing the defense, not much is known in Pittsburgh right now. This loss was a punch in the gut, and the response which is needed is a dominant performance vs. the Bengals next Sunday. However, nothing is certain with this football team at the moment.

AFC North Standings

Pittsburgh Steelers - 1-1
Cincinnati Bengals - 1-1
Baltimore Ravens - 1-1
Cleveland Browns - 1-1

Week 3 AFC North Schedule:

Cleveland Browns vs. Chicago Bears — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

A look ahead...

Next three opponents for all AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens: at Lions, at Broncos, vs. Colts (MNF)
Cleveland Browns: vs. Bears, at Vikings, at Chargers
Pittsburgh Steelers: vs. Bengals, at Packers, vs. Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals: at Steelers, vs. Jaguars, vs. Packers

Steelers place Tyson Alualu on IR, promote Henry Mondeaux from practice squad

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 1:21pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers make a necessary roster move after Tyson Alualu’s broken ankle required surgery.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a roster move following their Week 2 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. After having ankle surgery on Monday, the Steelers have placed nose tackle Tyson Alualu on the Reserve/Injured List. In a corresponding roster move, Steelers of promoted defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad.

We have placed DL Tyson Alualu on the Reserve/Injured List & promoted DL Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 20, 2021

Entering his 12th season, Alualu was a first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010. Playing the last five seasons in Pittsburgh, including two games in 2021, Alualu had 24 starts in 64 games with seven sacks and 145 tackles with the Steelers. Lost on the first defensive drive on Sunday, Alualu had five tackles in 2021.

Having surgery on Monday, Alualu will miss significant time with the possibility of being out the entire 2021 NFL season. Under the current IR rules, Alualu would be eligible to return in 2021 if physically able.

Signing a new contract in 2021 after originally agreeing to go back to Jacksonville, Alualu is under contract through the 2022 NFL season where he will turn 35 years old prior to the start of the season.

With the open roster spot, the Steelers have promoted defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad. Originally making the 53-man roster, Mondeaux was released and signed the practice squad when the Steelers traded for cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on September 3. Starting the 2020 season on the Steelers practice squad, Mondeaux appeared in 11 games in 2020 where he had five tackles, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits. During the 2021 preseason, Mondeaux played 112 snaps for the Steelers and had six quarterback hurries and two tackles and had the Steelers second-highest grade according to Pro Football Focus only behind Alex Highsmith.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and injury reports as the Steelers move forward to prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Heinz Field.

T.J. Watt groin injury not serious, could play in Week 3

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 12:38pm
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year finalist left the Steelers’ Week 2 game in the 2nd quarter.

As discouraging as the injury news was for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Monday brings a renewed hope of player availability moving forward. As previously reported, Diontae Johnson is believed to have not sustained a significant injury to his knee as the injury should be more of the short-term variety than that of something which jeopardizes his 2021 season.

In other positive news, it has been reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the Steelers All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who exited with a groin injury in the first half of the Steelers Week 2 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, may be available in Week 3 and does not believe it to be a major injury which would keep him out multiple games.

#Steelers LB TJ Watt, knocked out with a groin injury, has a chance to play this Sunday, I’m told. A good sign that — regardless of if he plays or not — it’s not a major injury.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 20, 2021

It is a much-welcomed report for the return of T.J. Watt as his presence was missed in the second half of Week 2. On the season, Watt already has three sacks through six quarters of play as well as two forced fumbles. While it is hopeful Watt can rejoin the team this Sunday in the Steelers first AFC North matchup of the 2021 season, knowing how soft tissue injuries can linger is something both Watt and the Steelers will want to monitor in order to make sure the likelihood of a re-aggravation is minimized.

On Sunday, the injury news was not of the positive variety as it was reported nose tackle Tyson Alualu will be missing significant time which could be the entire 2021 NFL season.

The other two players who missed Sunday’s game with groin injuries, Devin Bush and Joe Haden, do not have a report as to the severity of their injuries at this time. It was reported Joe Haden did participate in warmups on Sunday in order to test his injury to see if he could play in Week 2. An update on these players is expected from head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday during his regularly scheduled weekly press conference at 12 PM at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and injury reports as the Steelers move forward to prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Heinz Field.

Diontae Johnson reportedly avoids major injury, status for Week 3 unknown

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 12:01pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Some feared the worst when the Steelers’ leading receiver was injured on the final play of Sunday’s game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers dealt with a number of injuries during the Week 2 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. With two players, Devin Bush and Joe Haden, inactive after suffering injuries in practice on Friday, the Steelers lost nose tackle Tyson Alualu on the first defensive drive as well as All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt prior to halftime.

With the serious injuries occurring on the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers offense did not lose any players due to injury throughout the game. That is, until the final play with only 0:20 remaining in a nine-point game.

Rather than just wave the white flag, the Pittsburgh Steelers ran a play to close out their game against the Raiders at Heinz Field. The result of the play was an 11-yard gain by wide receiver Diontae Johnson as Ben Rothlisberger connected with a pass as Johnson was crossing the field and he sped towards the sideline. Unfortunately, as Johnson was being taken down he suffered an injury in which head coach Mike Tomlin had not been given any update after the game.

There were some who speculated the Steelers wide receiver could have sustained a serious knee injury. Luckily, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported on Monday that Johnson did not sustain a serious injury which would but in jeopardy his entire 2021 season.

#Steelers WR Diontae Johnson did not suffer a serious injury yesterday, source says. His status for Sunday vs. the #Bengals is TBD but it’s not a long-term injury.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 20, 2021

Although Johnson may or may not be available this week, the fact that the discussion is not about any type of structural damage to a point where surgery is needed is fantastic news. Even if Johnson is unable to take the field in the coming weeks, the fact that he should be available long-term is encouraging.

For the 2021 season, Johnson has 14 receptions on 22 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown. The 11-yard reception to finish the game in Week 2 put Johnson over the 100-yard mark and is the only Steelers’ receiver to do so through the first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season.

Having Diontae Johnson available is encouraging to a struggling Steelers offense which has only produced a total of 33 points in two games. As the Steelers look to improve their offensive output, having all of their players available will be one helpful step in the growing process.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and injury reports as the Steelers move forward to prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday at Heinz Field.

Snap counts vs. the Raiders show the problems with the Steelers defense

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 11:30am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries show up clearly when you look at the snaps players played.

The Steelers lost their home opener, but before they lost on the field, they lost players from the team for the game. Joe Haden and Devin Bush were unexpected scratches from the roster for injury, joining Stephon Tuitt as top Steeler defenders that would miss the game. But before we get to the defense, we need to look at who played on offense.

Offense

Trai Turner missed 11 snaps after he was disqualified for apparently spitting at another player, B.J. Finney replaced him, and if Turner is suspended, will likely start for him next week.

Najee Harris didn’t play 100% of snaps in Week 2, and while he only received three snaps off, that was enough to drop him below JuJu Smith-Schuster on the snaps list. The Steelers used receivers more in Week 2, up to 2.84 receivers per snap after a 2.65 receivers mark from Week 1. That uptick came with a downtick in TE and FB snaps. Zach Gentry and Derek Watt were the ones that saw the field less, with Gentry dropping from 28% of snaps to 14%, and Derek Watt not seeing the field on offense after playing 3 snaps vs. the Buffalo Bills.

But I think the most important thing to take away from the snap counts on offense is aside from the 11 snaps Turner missed after being thrown out of the game, the offense had all of their main players available throughout the game. That was not at all the case with the defense.

Defense

Let’s start with the 100% club. In Week 1 the four main defensive backs played every snap. With Joe Haden out, James Pierre stepped in and played 100% of snaps. Pierre did well in his first NFL start, but he was not Joe Haden. The fallout from the loss of Haden didn’t end with James Pierre’s first 100% of snaps game. Pierre was the dime back, and that role was passed on to Justin Layne (9 snaps) and Akhello Witherspoon (4 snaps). There’s another significant change in the secondary depth in Week 2, as Arthur Maulet played zero defensive snaps after playing 13 in Buffalo. The Steelers continued to move Cameron Sutton inside in Dime, and they played Tre Norwood every nickel snap, so Layne and Witherspoon joined Pierre outside in dime, and Maulet, who is better inside, stayed on the bench.

The drop in snaps for the secondary came with increased usage of defensive lineman, as the Steelers went from 2.04 defensive lineman per snap to 2.24 per snap. The Steelers put a third defensive lineman on the field roughly 20% of snaps as opposed to Week 1 where they only did it a few times. The problem with those snaps is the Steelers dressed 5 defensive lineman and lost Tyson Alualu after only 4 snaps played. That led to Isaiah Buggs and Isaiahh Loudermilk playing a combined 40 snaps when last week with Alualu and Carlos Davis playing Buggs and Loudermilk combined for 8 snaps (all Buggs, Loudermilk was inactive).

Cameron Heyward jumped from 66% of snaps to 85% of snaps, and while that is understandable with the injuries on the line it needs to be stated that he played the exact same number of total snaps as week one. His workload didn’t really increase, the defense was on the field less, so he could play more of those snaps.

With T.J. Watt’s injury limiting him to 16 snaps, Melvin Ingram ended up playing 86% of snaps, with Alex Highsmith playing 54%. The Steelers stayed committed to rotating Highsmith, and that led to Jamir Jones jumping from 1 snap last week to 15 in Week 2. Highsmith has not yet recorded a sack or QB hit in 2021, while Jones recorded his first QB hit against Derek Carr this week.

Lastly, with Devin Bush out Joe Schobert joined the 100% club for the first time as a Steeler, and Robert Spillane played 80% of snaps and played well in a supporting role to Joe Schobert, leading the team in tackles and continuing to deliver big hits.

Hopefully the snap counts include a few more high profile names in Week 3, because any defense down three of their top six snap count players is going to struggle.

Podcast: Winners and Losers from Raiders vs. Raiders in Week 2

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 11:00am

Jeff Hartman leads the way with his AM studio show on the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers had a rough go in their home opener against Vegas due to player loss due to injury and subpar play. As always, there are winners and losers in every game. Unfortunately, the latter outweighs the former for the Steelers this week. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC senior editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • Winners and Losers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Mike Tomlin outlines his perspective on the Trai Turner ejection in Week 2

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Mike Tomlin gives his opinion of what went down with Trai Turner being ejected during the Week 2 game vs. the Raiders.

During the game Sunday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders, there were many plays which made you scratch your head and wonder what was going on. There were also many penalties which left fans likely screaming at their television after the call.

None had Steelers fans wondering what happened than when Trai Turner was given a personal foul penalty and was then ejected. There were two unsportsmanlike penalties, and they offset, but only Turner was ejected.

A quick replay showed Turner spitting on a Raiders player, hence the ejection. However, the Steelers leaders are standing up for Turner, suggesting he was retaliating after he was spit on by a Raiders player.

This is what Mike Tomlin had to say about it after the game:

“Somebody spit in his face.” Tomlin said. “And so I understand the 15-yard penalties and so forth, gaining control of the game and stuff, Trai is not a young guy, he’s not overly emotional; he’s a flat-liner. For him to respond the way that he responded, what transpired had to transpire. I was stating that case to them. I didn’t believe he did enough to be kicked out of the football game. That was just my opinion.”

Tomlin wasn’t the only person to chime in on the situation which turned into Turner being ejected, and possibly facing further discipline from the league. This is what Ben Roethlisberger said in his post-game press conference.

“You know, I caught the last, I didn’t catch the very, very beginning of it, but just in talking to him, he said he got spit on, and so he didn’t like that, which I understand and respect as a man, and he went and tried to say something to the guy that spit on him.”

No one is suggesting if Turner was spit on for him to just take it and move on with his life, but for a veteran like Turner you have to believe there wasn’t a way he could get retribution without hurting his team in the process.

There will be news on this situation in the coming days, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes as the Steelers now turn their attention to their first AFC North divisional game when the Cincinnati Bengals come to Heinz Field in Week 3.

5 Winners and 8 Losers after the Steelers loss to the Raiders

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Time to take a look at who would be considered a ‘Winner’ and a ‘Loser’ after the Steelers latest action on the gridiron.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 of regular season action. The Steelers were losers in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a bad performance.

Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.

Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after the first game of the preseason...

Winners

Chris Boswell
Stat Line: 56-yard field goal, longest in Heinz Field history

I should have put Boswell on the winners list last week after his performance in Buffalo, but after nailing that 56-yard field goal, the longest field goal in Heinz Field history, he deserves a spot on the winners list this week. He’s been rock solid since the debacle that was his 2018 season.

Najee Harris
Stat Line: 10 rushes, 38 yards / 5 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD

Harris’ stat line doesn’t scream “winner”, but at the same time I felt he took a huge step forward on Sunday. Harris’ 38 rushing yards were far from inspiring numbers, but how he got those 38 yards is downright unbelievable. Harris was repeatedly hit in the backfield, only to find himself fighting just to get back to the line of scrimmage, or gaining one or two yards. Makes you wonder what he could do if the offensive line could open up actual running lanes. Also, his stiff arm alone puts him on the winners list.

Diontae Johnson
Stat Line: 9 receptions, 105 yards, 41 yard long, 12 targets

Johnson led the Steelers in both targets, receptions and yards, and continues to have the look of Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to receiver. The knee injury to finish the game was frustrating, but Johnson has the look of a legitimate threat on a weekly basis. Last year’s drops seem like years ago, and outside of Johnson and Roethlisberger not being on the same page once or twice a game Johnson has been tremendous this season.

Robert Spillane
Stat Line: 12 tackles, 8 solo, 1 TFL

Spillane didn’t play in Week 1 after a shin injury in the pre-game, but he played a big role on the defense vs. the Raiders. With Devin Bush out with a groin injury, the presence of Joe Schobert allowed Spillane to do what he does best — tackle. Spillane’s 12 total tackles led the team, and he was all over the field hitting Raiders. A nice rebound for Spillane after a rough preseason.

Melvin Ingram
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL

With T.J. Watt sidelined with a groin injury of his own, Ingram was thrust into playing more snaps than he had thus far. He was able to register a sack, and was disruptive in the pass rushing game. While Ingram didn’t make fans forget about Watt, he did more than enough to keep Derek Carr sliding protections his way.

Losers

Trai Turner
Stat Line: Ejected after spitting on an opponent

As a father, and a teacher, I’ve said the following statement hundreds of times, “The one who retaliates almost always gets caught.” This isn’t justifying Turner retaliating if he was spit on first, but as a veteran you have to expect him to handle his business in a way which won’t jeopardize the team.

Injuries
Stat Line: Multiple players entered the game, or left the game, with injury

As if it needs to be reiterated, injuries have put the Steelers’ roster in a tough spot heading into Week 3. It will test their depth at many positions, and the hope is the Steelers get at least some of the injured players back for their first divisional game next Sunday.

Mike Tomlin “Living in his fears”
Stat Line: Not going for it on 4th and 1

Trust is a big thing on any organized/competitive team. If you don’t trust members of the team, it can be a big deal within the ranks of the group. Nothing screams a lack of trust more than Mike Tomlin electing to punt the ball on 4th an 1 in the 4th quarter. Essentially, he was saying he doesn’t trust the offensive line, and his running back, to get one yard and have a chance to complete the comeback. Some will throw out analytics, or the fact the Steelers got the ball back after the punt, but it doesn’t change a thing as it pertains to what the decision meant for the offense.

Akhello Witherspoon
Stat Line: Ruggs 61-yard reception for TD

At the time of this being written, I don’t know how many snaps Witherspoon played before the touchdown pass to Ruggs put a dagger in the Steelers’ comeback hopes and dreams. However, if it was his only snap, it was forgettable. Maybe the question is what Minkah Fitzpatrick’s responsibilities were on the play, but either way it was a less than ideal welcome to Pittsburgh for Witherspoon.

Offensive Line
Stat Line: 2 sacks surrendered, 10 QB hits, only 39 yards rushing

Everyone wants to bury players like Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, but to me the issue is the offensive line. You can’t run pass plays when your quarterback is running for his life. You can’t expect accurate passes when the defense is hitting your quarterback 10 times. You can’t expect your running back to get into a rhythm when he is being hit in the backfield regularly. The struggles start up front. If that doesn’t get fixed, nothing else will change

Steelers Secondary
Stat Line: Derek Carr: 28-37, 382 YDS, 2 TD

The loss of Haden, in my opinion, was the biggest loss for the Steelers vs. the Raiders. It forced the team to make a decision with how they utilize Cam Sutton. James Pierre started, and when the Steelers went into their sub packages, primarily the dime, Sutton moved into his dime role and Justin Layne came onto the field. Talk about testing your depth. Nonetheless, the secondary was absolutely shredded. Getting Haden back will help, but so will getting a consistent pass rush on the opposing quarterback.

Penalties
Stat Line: 5 penalties for 43 yards

The 5 penalties for 43 yards doesn’t seem like a lot, but the timing of the penalties were almost equally as tough to swallow. Penalties like the roughing the passer call on Spillane gave a new set of downs, and renewed life for the opposition. Not to mention the false start penalties which immediately put you behind the sticks.

3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 5-for-12

I said it in this section last week, and I unfortunately have to say it again this week. Having drives which are time-consuming and end in points hinge on winning on critical downs. Downs like third downs. For the second straight week the Steelers have struggled in this regard. Have to clean it up on these critical downs.

If you want a more detailed look at the above list, check out my “Let’s Ride” podcast where I outline each Winner and Loser, and MORE!

Report Card: Grading the Steelers loss vs. the Raiders

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 8:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers lost on the field, but does their report card reflect that?

The dust has settled and the Pittsburgh Steelers were left shell-shocked in a 26-17 defeat at home to the Las Vegas Raiders. Not a whole lot went right for the Steelers on Sunday afternoon, from injuries, to blown plays it was an all around let down by the men of steel. Below are the game grades for the offense, defense, and special teams of the Steelers, and today’s poor performance will be a direct link to the grades they received.

Offense

The Steelers offense once again stumbled out of the gate. Slow starts have plagued this team for a long time, but in 2021 the problem has only grown. Seemingly, the Steelers offense doesn't wake up until near the end of the first half. Ben Roethlisberger also hobbled out of the gate, but finished the game a shade under 300 yards, his one interception was a terrible decision on a play he should have just taken the sack.

Najee Harris looked pretty good, considering he wasn't given much in terms of rushing lanes. His 25-yard touchdown reception was the first of his career, and he threw a vicious stiff arm that will be replayed on highlight reels for the rest of the season. Harris is a great football player, I just hope he can get some proper running lanes to run through.

The tight ends and receivers were fine, you would wish Chase Claypool would start bringing down some of those jump balls Roethlisberger has been launching his way. This offense has the players to be a big play team, but the big plays just aren't happening. It’s frustrating to know their potential only for it to not be met week after week. You have to hope a break out game is on the way, but we have been waiting on this for a long time.

Overall Grade: D+ Defense

It’s hard to fault the defense for this game considering they were down four starters from the week before, and Stephon Tuitt who is on Injured Reserve. Joe Haden, Devin Bush, Tyson Alualu, and T.J. Watt all missed more than a half of the game, and their absences were noticeable. Despite not having them in the game, the rest of the Steelers defense kept things interesting.

Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr ripped the Steelers defense to shreds in the passing game throwing for more than 350 yards. Carr seemingly had a receiver running open on every play, with Hunter Renfrow gashing the defense on what felt like every third down. The Steelers managed to keep Darren Waller in check for most of the afternoon, but the other pass catchers more than made up for it. Henry Ruggs put the game on ice taking a Carr pass 61 yards for a the dagger touchdown on third down. That play could've been the difference in the game, and unfortunately it fell in the Raiders’ favor.

The Steelers did erase the Raiders rushing attack however. Was it the Steelers front that did it, or the Raiders lack of interest running the ball with Josh Jacobs out of the game remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter remains, the Steelers defense didn't get gashed on the ground.

Overall Grade: C- Special Teams

Pretty quiet day returning the football from both sides, but Pressley Harvin III and Chris Boswell were excellent. Harvin bombed the ball all over the field, including one that was downed at the three yard line. While Boswell kicked a Heinz Field record 56-yard field goal in a high pressure scenario. The kicker and punter did their job perfectly, now hopefully they can carry that throughout the year.

Overall Grade: B+ Overall

It just want the Steelers’ day, the defense desperately needs to get healthy, and the offense needs to start figuring out what they have to do on the field. The Steelers won't win many, or any, games with today’s formula, and that needs to change. The Raiders were simply the better team on this day, and for the Steelers playing at home in front of fans for the first time since 2019 is shocking and never should have happened.

The Steelers also beat themselves at times on Sunday, suffering a number of penalties, including offsides, holds, and false starts. These are simple penalties that can be taken out of any game by being more disciplined. Hopefully this will be the last time we have to talk about the Steelers shooting themselves in the foot this year.

Overall Grade: C-

But what do you think? Do you agree with these Steelers grades? Let us know your thoughts down in the below.

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